Toward an ethnographic sensibility in urban research

Hayley Henderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


ABSTRACT: This paper argues for the adoption of an ethnographic sensibility in urban research to study ‘wicked problems’ in cities. In particular, it suggests that applied settings of urban governance offer rich grounds for study and that one possible pathway to uncovering the nuances of these practice realities is to employ an ethnographic sensibility in urban research. Furthermore, it posits that this approach creates opportunities to smooth the passage between academic research and applied practice. The paper draws on the tradition of ethnography in urban research as well as contributions from institutional and political ethnography to form a typology of four approaches, including: embedded immersion ‘on the inside’, ‘insider-afterwards’ perspectives, influencing ‘inside’ practices and ‘getting at the inside’ through the deployment of ethnographically informed research methods. Overall, the paper concludes that employing an ethnographic sensibility in urban research assists with uncovering the nuances of contemporary urban governance settings and producing evidence that is robust for practical application and potent for theory development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Planner
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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